A few weeks ago, I tried SoulCycle (and hated it) and as I was looking for my next workout, you guys challenged me to try Rock Climbing. This post is part of my ongoing series Do You Even Lift, Ro, where I try different workouts and review them here. I went to Brooklyn Boulders in West Loop, where two members of my college’s Rock Climbing Team taught me how it works.
My friend Danielle challenged me to try Indoor Rock Climbing. She ran Cross Country and Track every season in high school, so when I wanted to give my legs a break from all the running post-marathon, she thought rock climbing would be the perfect next workout.
Danielle chose rock climbing because she didn’t want to keep running, but couldn’t commit to a scheduled workout class. “Right away the community I found through climbing was so welcoming and so enthusiastic about their sport” she remembered when she first started the summer after her senior year.
The gym the team goes to is Brooklyn Boulders in West Loop, which although far from campus, was conveniently close to my summer job. Danielle started climbing her third year on campus, “and my grades actually improved so I didn’t find it taking time away from productive studying.” It is a 3-4 hour commitment away from campus.
I used Danielle’s free pass to get access to the gym and by the end of it I was able to even get belay certified. During the year, the student membership is about $89 per month and you can go as often as you’d like.
Upon arrival I was fitted for climbing shoes and a harness before being given a tour of the space. The gym has wifi and co-working spaces so you can do homework. There are also a bunch of great restaurants in the area, which makes it easy to make a trip out of it while you’re downtown.
Turns Out I’m Scared of Heights
When I started lifting in the spring, I could never do pull ups so you can imagine I was expecting to have my butt handed to me by these incredible women. What I didn’t expect was the raw strength required to lift myself up a wall.
The first challenge was bouldering, which is when you try to climb up a section of wall without the use of Belays.
Turns out that rock climbing isn’t just a physical challenge, it’s also a mental challenge. Hand holds are color coded and marked by difficulty. You’re meant to start at the lower numbers and work your way up each puzzle.
This was incredibly hard, since it turns out trying to get up even the easiest walls requires looking down to find the next foothold. Halfway up the easiest wall is a non-ideal way to be reminded that you’re paralyzingly afraid of heights.
Yeah, Let’s Try the Big One
Naturally, this was the ideal time to try out the taller walls. I figured having the auto-belay or trusting the experienced hands of the Rock Climbing Team.
Auto-belays are mechanized rigs that allow you to climb without relying on someone else. Even though the wall was much higher, being attached with the harness actually made me less nervous.
Rock climbing forces you to use all kinds of muscles you didn’t know you had. Only 20 minutes into the session and my forearms were incredibly sore. Then all kind of ab pain kicked in and my calves were really tight.
But You Only Went Once
It was a really hard workout, but also really expensive so I wasn’t able to try it out for an extended period of time. Part of me wishes I had because I was so sore, but the rest of me is really thankful that I can keep working out on the ground.
Danielle also brought her friend Jackson for his first time rock climbing. As a member of the cross-country team, Jackson runs “a ton, like 50-60 miles a week… it was a different workout (running never makes your forearms sore) but I really enjoyed it and definitely will do it again.”
She has a long record of evangelizing rock climbers. She also convinced her friend Sam, now the President of the Rock Climbing Team, to try it. Sam goes three times a week, which at 3-4 hours a piece sounds like a huge time commitment to me, but she describes it as “just one of the things i do on campus.” Danielle’s boyfriend has also started climbing so it is now as much a social event as an opportunity to work out.
Like anything else, if you love it, you find the space for it in your schedule. Danielle takes the time every week to make it fit. Even if I weren’t scared of heights, I think the time and cost would be huge barriers for me.
Check out other posts from the Do You Even Lift, Ro series! I’ve tried Yoga, SoulCycle, and my friends just tried working out like body builders for three months.
What workout should I try next?
Let me know in the comments or on Instagram @xoxorosana.blog